If my life were a book, I'm guessing this chapter would be called something like "San Francisco, Part II". Or "Michelle Moves to San Francisco.... Again". Or maybe even "San Francisco, All Grown Up". But I like the first title best, so we're sticking with it.
Because "San Francisco, Part II" so far has been a lot more pleasant than "San Francisco, Part I". I really lucked out with my place in Noe Valley, my new neighborhood. There are a ton of lemon trees and quaint architecture, as well as a Whole Foods just a stone's throw away from my new studio. The Mission, my old neighborhood from "San Francisco, Part I", with all its trendy shops and restaurants, is pretty accessible with a quick, downhill walk.
It's a sign of how much has changed in the last few years. In my early twenties, I embraced the Mission's grit — I loved walking around the hustle and the bustle, the loud noise and sirens. I relished knowing which streets to avoid because of their "sketchiness", and which Mission "danger dog" vendors gave you more onions and peppers than others. I could spend hours wearing tight pants and walk miles quickly wearing uncomfortable shoes, staying out late into the night and keeping a constant lookout over my shoulder as I returned home.
But in the span of five years, the tables have turned completely. I no longer define a "good neighborhood" by its vicinity to the hottest restaurants and bars; instead, I want accessible grocery stores with a wide range of fresh produce, restaurants where I can get food without waiting in line for an hour beforehand, and parking. Living in a sketchy neighborhood is no longer a badge of honor that I wear (though... is the Mission even all that sketchy these days? Considering that rent in the neighborhood is one of the most expensive in the city — oh how times have changed!). I change into sweats immediately when getting home. And shoes? You don't want to see what I wear out and about every day. Am I boring and lame? Yes, absolutely, 100%. Do I care? Nope, not in the very least.
Is this what growing up is? Stretchy pants and indifference to what's cool? Because so far, I dig it.
I'm still getting settled in my new place (which, although I love it, its kitchen is definitely a downgrade from my own — but more on that later), but I planned a slew of recipes to share with you guys in advance before the move. Today's is this caramel mascarpone tart topped with brown sugar rubbed pears:
Before I left Portland, I was lucky enough to receive a parcel from USA Pears containing a ton of Bartlett and green and red Anjou pears. Pears are one of my favorite fruit — they have a ton of health benefits (one pear apparently packs 6 grams of fiber, which is almost a quarter of the FDA's recommended daily intake). Not only do they have a unique, light, and refreshing flavor, but they're incredibly versatile and pair well with a ton of flavors and ingredients (like wine or chocolate) in baked goods.
This time, I'm pairing the pears (HA, see my pun there?!) with caramel. I've sweetened a batch of mascarpone whipped cream with some dulce de leche. As for the pears, because I love their natural flavor so much, I kept it pretty simple — I sprinkled the tops of each pear with brown sugar and just let them macerate on the tart, bringing out their natural flavors and juices. Each bite is a story of different textures: crunch from the brown butter tart shell and creamy fluff from the mascarpone whipped cream, finished off with the juicy sweetness from the pears.
Some baker's notes:
- If you don't have the long, rectangular tart pan that this recipe calls for, don't fret! You can also make the tart using a regular 9-inch round tart pan. If using a round tart pan, however, I advise you to chop up the pears into 1-inch chunks, toss them with the brown sugar, and top the cream with the slices instead. The smaller pieces distribute across a round pan easier (versus keeping them whole with a rectangular pan).
- To flavor the mascarpone, I used dulce de leche caramel because I had a jar that I was trying to get rid of before my move. Feel free to use any caramel sauce you would prefer though — you can even make your own from scratch!
- It's best to eat this tart immediately on the day its made; otherwise, it's a hot mess. The tart will become soggy, the whipped cream will get deflated, and the pears will brown. To save time, you can make the tart shell the day before. The whipped cream comes together fairly quickly the following day. Slice the pears right before serving; if not, rub a little lemon juice on the sliced surface to prevent the pears from browning quickly. This will buy you a few hours.
For the Brown Butter Tart Shell:
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- a pinch of salt
- 5.75 ounces all-purpose flour
(makes enough for 1 tart)
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, cold
- 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
- 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
- 3 tablespoons dulce de leche caramel
- a pinch of kosher salt
- 2 1/2 medium-small ripe pears
- 1/4 cup loosely-packed dark brown sugar
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 410 (F).
- In a Pyrex type oven-safe bowl, combine 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, 3 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, and a pinch of salt.
- This is going to sound weird, but place the bowl in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, until the mixture is boiling and the butter starts browning.
- After 15 minutes, remove from the oven, and add 5.5 ounces of flour quickly, by spooning in flour in 1 tablespoon sized chunks. Use a heatproof rubber spatula to stir in the flour until it pulls off the sides of the bowl. The mixture is gonna bubble and smoke, but trust the recipe!
- Once the dough is cool enough to touch, use the back of your hand to flatten out the dough onto your tart pan, using your finger tips to mold the dough up into the corners and sides of the pan. It will feel a little greasy and kinda unpleasant (the dough has the texture of mashed potatoes), but go with it. Once all the pans are lined, use a fork to poke several holes into the crust.
- Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake at 410 (F) for 15 minutes, or until the crust is light brown and starts to appear flaky. Once it does, remove carefully from oven and let rest on a wire rack. This crust is very forgiving — it should have hardly any cracks. If you are worried about cracks, you can reserve some of the dough to press into any cracks that might appear after the baking process — the residual heat from the freshly baked tart will bake the dough accordingly and patch up your crust. Once the crust is completely cooled, it is ready for filling.
For the Caramel Mascarpone Whipped Cream and Brown Sugar Rubbed Pears:
- In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream on medium-high speed until soft peaks start to form. Once peaks have formed, add 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese and 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar and continue beating for another 30 seconds until the cheese and sugar have been incorporated throughout the cream.
- Turn off the mixer and drizzle 3 tablespoons dulce de leche caramel and a pinch of kosher salt over the cream. Use a rubber spatula to fold the caramel and salt into the whipped cream, until well combined.
- Use an offset spatula to spread the caramel mascarpone whipped cream evenly across and inside the tart shell.
- De-stem and slice 2 1/2 ripe pears open. Remove the pear cores. Use a paper towel to pat the open slices dry, before sprinkling 1/4 cup dark brown sugar over each pear slice. Transfer immediately to the prepared tart shell, and serve immediately.